Colorado SC investigates Denver tax attorney

Chris Rizo Jun. 18, 2008, 11:49am

Rodney Atherton

DENVER, Colo. (Legal Newsline)-The Colorado Supreme Court has begun an ethics investigation into a tax attorney whose firm represents the Colorado Republican Party.

The investigation was initiated after the Colorado Division of Real Estate filed a complaint against attorney Rodney Atherton for his involvement in transactions under the state's conservation tax credit program, officials said.

The agency contends that Atherton-a partner in the Denver law firm of Zakhem Atherton, LLC- might have violated state ethics rules.

In a letter to the state Supreme Court, Erin Toll, an attorney director of the real estate division, alleges that information about Atherton turned up during the real estate division's investigation of appraisers who performed appraisals for state conservation easement tax credits.

"[I]nformation about Mr. Atherton was learned that, if true, could mean Mr. Atherton violated several Rules of professional conduct raising a substantial question as to Mr. Atherton's honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer," she wrote.

The conservation easement program provides tax credits to landowners who agree not to develop their property. The program requires that the landowners donate easements protecting the property to non-profit land trusts. Tax credits gained through the program can be sold for cash.

The state contends that a handful of these transactions done by Atherton have been investigated because of the way they were structured and amid complaints that land values were inflated.

In the complaint, Toll alleges Atherton represented several parties involved in the same transaction. She also claims he promoted and sold interests in a company in which he also had a vested interest.

Atherton was not able to be reached for comment.

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